1. Get up early. The earlier the better. While the rest of Italy – or at least most of it – is still sleeping, it feels like you have the place all to yourself – wherever that place might be. Even the busiest of streets in Rome or Florence are barely stirring during the early morning hours, and in the countryside early morning can be an even bigger treat. Stunning light from the rising run, mist in a nearby valley, church bells in the distance … magical.
2. Sit and sip. Whether it’s a crema-topped caffè or a glass of the local vino, stopping to sit and sip something in a local bar or sidewalk cafe is one of the best ways to welcome a memorable moment. Watching the world go by, even for a few minutes, helps an over-stimulated traveler’s mind to relax and take it the surroundings. Plus your weary feet get a chance to rest too.
3. Visit an artisan’s shop. I love, love, love visiting the shops (and laboratories) of local artisans. Whether it’s glass mosaics, painted ceramics or hand-beaten copper pots, seeing the process of something beautiful being crafted by hand is unforgettable. Plus the interaction with local Italians can be priceless! Definitely a wonderful way to make a moment that you’ll remember always.
4. Eat on the outskirts. The centers of popular tourist areas are often the very worst places to eat. Restaurant owners have learned that making good food is a waste on most tourists (sad but true) so it’s common to find low quality and crummy service. That’s why heading to the outskirts is a must! If you’re staying in a city center (like Rome) it’s easy to wander down a side street to a welcoming trattoria, or if you’re visiting a popular town (like Assisi) you might drive into one of the nearby villages to experience true Umbrian cuisine. Really good meals create many a memorable moment!
5. Touch old things. On a recent jaunt to Rome, I was saddened to see so many people taking pictures of themselves, and of each other, in front of the Colosseum – without ever seeming to notice the Colosseum! I wanted to shout, “Reach out and touch that ancient stone!” So many incredible monuments, buildings and works of art throughout Italy are touch-able. How amazing is that? Running one’s hand across an Etruscan name carved some 2,500 years ago … now, that’s a memorable moment.
6. Put your camera down. Your smart phone too. I mean there’s nothing wrong with taking photos (and I’m the first one to line up for a beautiful shot) but today’s digital devices have created a frenzy of picture-taking, don’t you think? Just recently, at our local thermal baths, I took one shot (below) then put my iPhone away and sat back in the warm waters and enjoyed the gorgeous views across Tuscany. Funny … I haven’t glanced at that photo again until just now, but I’ve been seeing that memorable moment – that view – in my mind’s eye again and again.
7. Savor it. Deeply. During a recent small-group tour (with a fabulous bunch of women!) we stayed a couple of nights in Monterosso – in Le Cinque Terre. One morning, as we were waiting to catch the inter-village train, one of the women walked down to the water, took off her shoes and meandered along the beach. As I watched her, I knew what was happening and it made me smile. She was savoring the moment. And that is the absolute best way to make a memorable moment during a visit to Italy. Just. Simply. Savor it.
Pamela Haack is the founder of Off the Beaten Strada, where she creates and hosts small group tours that are a combination of the very best of Italy: the exciting and the peaceful, the popular and the secret, the talked about and the never-heard-of-before. From art experts and operettas to authentic cooking classes and ancient Etruscans, Pamela helps visitors experience the spectacularly beautiful, endlessly interesting cities and countryside of Italy in an up-close and personal way.
She is also the author of Top 10 Favorite Etruscan Sites, as well as her popular blog, Off the Beaten Strada in Italy.
Pamela lives with her husband, Lou, in Umbria, Italy.